Total Solar Eclipse 2017

About 2 years ago, Lynn started to talk about the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017.  If we had the opportunity, she wanted to go to an area with 100% totality.  Last year in August, we started to get serious about going to the eclipse.  Even then it was difficult to find a place to rent to stay in the area we wanted to go because of cost and availability.  With our large family, a hotel would be much too expensive, renting an RV was not an option, so a vacation rental through VRBO was the way to go for us. We were able to find a house to rent in Island Park, Idaho.  It was about 30 minutes away from the 100% totality area, and about 40 minutes away from the area with over 2 minutes of complete totality.  We figured we would rent the house, and then find a decent place to drive to observe the eclipse.

We left Friday the 18th of August around 7pm from our home in San Diego County.  We drove through the night and met my parents in Beaver, Utah.  They had left earlier Friday morning so they wouldn’t have to drive through the night.  We arrived in Island Park about 5pm Saturday.  The distance we traveled was about 1050 miles, but we did make some fairly long stops.

Our rental through VRBO. 1800 square feet and fits all 9 of us perfectly! We have been very happy so far with each rental we have made through VRBO.

On Sunday, we drove around Rexburg, Idaho and Ashton, Idaho, both towns being in the 100% totality area, including going to church.  There were farmers who had harvested their crops in fields along the Highway 20 and were allowing visitors to camp in those fields for a fee. There were also farmers who had fields with KEEP OUT on hay bales. If I had a field that had not been harvested yet, I definitely would not want anyone trampling my crops!

On August 21st or Eclipse Day, there were also people who parked along the pullouts off of the freeway who may have come up just for the few hours it would take to view the eclipse.


We did not have a definite plan for Eclipse Day because we weren’t quite sure where exactly we would be able to go to watch. We knew that there were going to be many, many people in the area that day and were unsure where parking would be available. Josh preferred to be where there would be less people.

We told the pastor of the church we were visiting about the reason for our visit to the area (Total solar eclipse, Yellowstone, Grand Tetons) and he and his wife were extremely generous and invited us to their home for Eclipse Day, which was located in the zone of on totality with a duration of 2 minutes!

On Eclipse Day morning, we probably should have left earlier because of traffic, but we left a little later and arrived at the pastor’s house at 10:15 AM, right at the beginning of the partial eclipse.

Josh, my father-in-law, and I all had cameras set up to photograph the eclipse through partial phase and totality. None of us are expert photographers, but we tried to photograph it anyway.

I do have to say that none of the pictures you see online of a total solar eclipse can compare to seeing one in person. There is also a huge difference between a partial solar eclipse and a total solar eclipse. At our vacation rental, coverage was 99.4% but even that was not enough to experience totality.

Experiencing totality was not even close to what I was expecting. I knew it would get cold, I knew about the darkness, I knew that I might go a bit crazy trying to do too many things in two minutes. But for me, the highlight was looking up at the sun during totality and seeing the black hole where the sun should be and the delicate ribbons and streamers of the sun’s corona. It was beautiful and alien at the same time, and most likely is something that I will never see again.

The horizon around us took on the light of sunset/sunrise. The air turned cold, shadows became sharper, like sitting in the lights of a football stadium at night. You can see, but everything looks slightly faded, like looking at a sepia photo. We could hear cheering from fellow eclipse watchers in the neighborhood.

Then, totality ended and the sun and normality returned.

One thing that struck me about the eclipse: it is silent. There is no fanfare when totality begins and there is no taps when it ends. There is nothing you can do but watch and experience and admire. You are only an onlooker in this dance between the sun and the moon.partialphase1

DSC_0071reduced copy

After the eclipse, life went on. We ate lunch with the pastor and his family,  left around 3:30 PM for our vacation rental, took a detour to see a waterfall called Mesa Falls, and didn’t get back to the house until about 6:45 PM. A 50 mile trip took us close to 3 hours because of traffic.

In spite of the traffic, it was worth it to experience this once in a lifetime event. Though, if we have a mind to, I suppose we could try to make it to the next total solar eclipse in the US, which will be on April 8, 2024, in seven years!


P.S. We took many more pictures and videos during the eclipse. Hopefully, we will get a post up soon with all of those. They need to be processed, edited, or reduced to be posted. Thank you so much for reading!







Lego Star Wars Days at Legoland California

Every year, if possible, we attend Lego Star Wars Days at Legoland California on Saturday. It is one of the highlights of our year and we had been looking forward to this year’s Lego Star Wars Days for a few months! We were not able to attend last year since we did not all have membership passes.

Click here for more info about Lego Star Wars Days

This is definitely a geeky post so feel free to skip if Star Wars is not your thing! This post will also be mostly pictures.


This year’s banner at the main stage near Miniland was great. I really liked the Death Star logo. This is where most of the contests for Star Wars Days takes place: Jedi Trivia, Family Build Challenge, and Costume Contest.


After taking a quick ride through the Lego Ninjago ride, we went to the Model Shop Rooftop, which is also very close to Miniland. Usually, when we go to Lego Star Wars Days, we don’t really ride many of the rides. We are off having too much fun being Star Wars fans! The Model Shop Rooftop is where you can pick up some free goodies: this year’s giveaways were a poster, two pop badges, and a pin.



For the droid hunt, you walk around Legoland, usually near the Beginning or in the Star Wars Miniland area to find a costumed member of either the Rebel Legion or the 501st to “catch” you. This year and the last year we went, we were caught by members of the Rebel Legion I think. They will say to you, “How long have you had these droids?” Usually, we just smile widely and say, “We’ve been looking for you!” Then they put the red ribbons over our droid hunt ribbons and give us each a raffle ticket for a 4:30 PM drawing for prizes.



There were also two contests to enter at the Model Shop rooftop, one was a drawing to win a piece of Star Wars artwork, and the other was to guess the number of Lego bricks used to build a full-scale R2D2.

The highlight of our visit to the Model Shop rooftop though is the fan gallery. Star Wars fans and Lego fans bring their own creations (called MOCs) to display.

We were able to talk to two MOC creators and we were so impressed with their models that we went and bought two power functions motors to play with at home! It helped that I had a 15% off coupon to use at the Big Shop.


I LOVED this Lego Star Wars Ferris wheel. We are also big fans of the Star Wars Rebels (minifigures on Ferris wheel left side) cartoon series as well as the Freemakers (minifigures on Ferris wheel right side). Can you find Grand Admiral Thrawn on the Star Wars Rebels side?

Isn’t this carousel awesome? Poor Chewie is probably not enjoying waiting his turn.

We also picked up our Scavenger Hunt entry forms at the Model Shop rooftop. The Scavenger Hunt is always fun for the kids.


One of the questions from the Scavenger Hunt entry form: How many Y-wings are in the battle around the Death Star? Answer: Zero! Because X-wings are cooler, and Y-wings are slow (sorry to any Y-wing pilots out there).

We also got to see the newest Star Wars Miniland addition: the planet Jakku and Kylo Ren’s Star Destroyer The Finalizer.

Another highlight to our day: seeing the 501st and the Rebel Legion walking around in costume. Of course, we took their pictures and also had our pictures taken with them.

The most impressive costume to me: Kylo Ren’s.

We haven’t had the kids enter the costume contest for ages 12 and under for a few years, but we always enjoy watching it at 4 PM. This year’s contest was hilarious. Kids say the craziest things!


This year’s three winners were 3rd place – General Grievous, 2nd place – Lego minifigure Emperor Palpatine, and 1st place – a probe droid. You can see the prizes they won on the platform.

After the contest, they had the raffle for the tickets we received during the droid hunt. We didn’t win, but there’s always a chance!

We had a blast at Lego Star Wars Days 2017! Hopefully, we will be able to make it again next year. Until then, may the Force be with you!



San Diego Comic-Con Open Registration is Coming…

I’m not sure if I posted about our results from San Diego Comic-Con Returning Registration, but here is the gist: Currently, Josh and I do not have passes for the same days at Comic-Con, which kind of defeats the purpose of us going. You know, together time and geeking out about all the things at the same time.

Yesterday, we got our e-mails about Open Registration. This year, it will be on April 8th at 9 AM. That day is going to be busy for us (birthday party for our twin nephews at 10 AM then our oldest is in a band concert at 6 PM), but hopefully, either Josh can get Friday and Saturday passes, or I can at least get just a Thursday pass.

I will say this though. Even if we don’t get to actually attend Comic-Con, I’m pretty sure that we will be be downtown at least one of those days. For three years, we just went downtown during Comic-Con with our kids and there were so many things to do outside the convention center that it really didn’t matter that we didn’t have passes.  In fact, I’m hoping to write a post about that: Things to Do Outside Comic-Con when You Can’t Actually Go to Comic-Con.  And it is a surprisingly long list!


Pi Day Pie: Chocolate Truffle Pie in a Chocolate Chip Cookie Crust

Since today is 3/14, of course I had to make a pie for pi day. I mulled over a few pies before I started on one. Lemon meringue? Chocolate custard tart? Does a tart count as a pie? Shepherd’s pie?

Well, I had leftover chocolate chip cookie dough in the fridge… and realized that maybe I could use that as a pie crust! So next I needed an easy filling. There is a pie my sister-in-law makes that is yummy and chocolatey called chocolate truffle pie.

I won’t say much about actually making this pie since it is just to celebrate pi and math in general. If you’d like the recipes, they are at the following links.

Chocolate Truffle Pie

Chocolate Chip Cookies



This is the cookie crust before I baked it. It looks just like a giant cookie.


This crust looked so yummy after baking that I had a hard time resisting eating it! The dough puffed up a little in the middle so I tamped it down a little. It looks like I didn’t need to since the filling didn’t fill this pie pan up as much as I thought it would.


This is how you try to do props for food photography (or the sad attempt) when you have kids, are homeschooling them, and just fed them lunch. Some day, I will learn to take decent pictures of my baking. Someday!

In the meantime, I hope everyone had a lovely pi day!


P.S. I have no idea if the cookie crust worked out. We won’t find out until after dinner!

San Diego Comic-Con Returning Registration

Today, returning registration for San Diego Comic-Con begins at 9:00 AM PST. We wouldn’t be The Geek Homestead if we weren’t trying for passes to this annual geekfest! This year, we are hoping to go two days instead of just one. We will also try to be better about posting during Comic-Con to the blog!

UPDATE: Returning registration sold out so fast for the days I wanted! So Josh has Thursday and I have Friday and Saturday. So as of right now, we can’t even go together to Comic-Con. We will be trying for the remaining days at open registration in April.


Lego Mindstorms: Banner Print3r Bot

This is a repost of our Lego Mindstorms: Banner Print3r Bot build. I wanted to make it more clear and added a few more tips and pictures. I hope it helps out anyone building this right now!


Since the Lego Mindcub3r took so long to build and get working, the kids played with it for more than a few days. It wasn’t until last week that we decided it was time to take the Mindcub3r apart and build a new bot to play with. Josh gave us a few options, and I decided we would try the Banner Print3r bot.

The Banner Print3r bot can draw or write on a cash register/calculator paper roll using a standard Sharpie marker. If you have a washable marker though that works as well as and is the same size as a Sharpie, I’d recommend using that.  We didn’t have any cash register paper rolls and I didn’t feel like taking all the kids to Staples, so I ordered a 12-pack off Amazon. At first, I thought I had bought too much paper, but it ended up being a good thing. We are already using our second cash register paper roll!

Since this is a monster post (1500 words!), I am going to place the rest of it under a read more.

Continue reading

Lego Adventures Series 1: The Race

We want to incorporate more creative writing into our kids’ homeschooling, so Josh and I decided to have our boys write or create a Lego Adventure every week based on a theme that we give them. We love what they do with the Lego Mindstorms, but we know how important writing and creative thinking will be later on when they are in college and then in the workforce. Writing is one of their weaknesses, and what better way to strengthen their writing skills than by letting them play with Legos?

This week’s theme is The Race. It could be any kind of race, not limited to just vehicles or race cars. They were to build a scene out of Legos and then write a story based on that scene. All four of our school-age children built a scene, but since Rhys (our kindergartener) doesn’t know how to read yet, we didn’t require him to write a story.

We also want to get our kids more involved in the blog. I think that since they know this is going on the Internet, they will work pretty hard on these Lego Adventures!


First, we have Rhys’ race scene. He thinks linearly so his race is in one line on the baseplate. I LOVE his little cat though! Isn’t it cute?



Somehow, Ian wrote two stories to go with his race scene. His scene was rather elaborate, but he is still working on his writing skills. I did not make any corrections so his stories may be difficult to understand.

I will post his original story and then his second story.


Ian is scared the big race is coming. The best racers are coming to race. You can be 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. 2 Zanes are winning. Ninjas are coming. The big race is starting.ianrace2

Since Zane destroyed the ghost mech so he destroyed the ninjacopter so he built this. He’s Airjitzu now thouh. It’s been a long time since rebooted.ianrace3

then he combinded them to the ghost copter! then he added a simble (symbol).ianrace4

Now He’s Fighting. Airjitzu Zane flyer came to help. Zane was flying in the ninjacopter the (then) it brock. Then ghost mech fell on it. Then he went to fight. he won


Matthias built a different kind of race: an eating contest!

The Eating Contest

by Matthias


Today is the day of the eating contest. The participants are Matthias, the Mandalorian, and Cole. They will be eating two loaves of bread, three apples, three carrots, two pizzas, one chicken leg, a hamburger, a fish, and a bun. The prize will be a slurpee.


Matthias started first and devoured his two loaves of bread.


Then he slowly ate the two pizzas.


After that Matthias ate his chicken leg. He took a sip of his coffee then gobbled his hamburger. Then he ate his fish.

“Ugh.”, said Matthias. He was full. He just could not eat any more.


So then the Mandalorian started. He likes bread so he ate it fast. So he moved on to round 2.


Then he ate his chicken leg. But when he ate his fish he threw up because he is allergic.

Cole started next. He devoured all his food except for the bun.


So Cole won the eating contest and he won the slurpee.



Corran’s story is reminiscent of a Mario Kart race. I also laughed through most of it because it was hilarious. In a good way.

The Race

by Corran


On the day of the big race, Pig Guy was scared. He would be racing against the best racers in Lego Town, like the Silence and Minion-with-a-hot-dog-in-his-hand-riding-on-a-pig. At least he had his trusty apple. Oh, and a new, fast motorcycle. The racers would have to race around a track around Lego Town, through the beach, and then back to where they started.


When the horn sounded to call the racers to the starting positions, he went to get his motorcycle to his position. The light was red then turned green, and everybody was off! The first portion of the race was easy, just three laps around the park.


Pig Guy’s motorcycle was pretty fast, but the ninja’s car was right behind!


In the meanwhile, Minion-with-a-hot-dog-in-his-hand-riding-on-a-pig’s pig had wandered somewhere to find some carrots, so he was out of the race. The AT-AT driver’s AT-AT was kind of slow, but it could shoot lasers. The Silence had a fast Speedor, and he could shoot lightning. The ninjas were, well, a car full of ninjas.

As Pig Guy was about to round into the park, the Silence tried to bump him! Pig Guy’s motorcycle jumped over the curb and into a thorn-bush. As Pig Guy crawled out of the bush and dragged his motorcycle back on the road, the Silence finished his three laps around the park. Pig Guy would have to drive very fast to catch up. When he started driving again, he looked at his fuel gauge. It was almost empty! Pig Guy had forgotten to fill up his fuel tank. Just when his motorcycle was about to give out, he noticed a hose hanging off the AT-AT in front of him. When he took it and stuck into his motorcycle, he stole the AT-AT’s fuel!


Now he was back in the race.

The next part of the race was over the old bridge. Pig Guy had almost caught up with the ninjas, but the Silence was still far ahead. When Pig Guy started to drive across the bridge, it started to rock. The ninjas slowed down so that they wouldn’t fall off, and Pig Guy was able to catch up with them! He plucked a thorn out of his arm, and leaned over to stick it into the ninjas’ tire. When it popped, the ninjas flew off the bridge! Now it was just Pig Guy and the Silence.

For the final section of the race, they had to race across the Beach. It was starting to get dark, and Pig Guy couldn’t see very well. He could see crabs scuttling across the sand. In the distance, he could see the Silence. Suddenly the Silence got stuck on a stretch of wet sand! Now Pig Guy could catch up! As Pig Guy came next to the Silence, the Silence blasted him with lightning! Then he pulled away from Pig Guy. Pig Guy couldn’t see very well from the lightning. Coming up soon he could see the finishing line. If he didn’t do something then the Silence would win. Pulling his arm back, he threw his apple as hard as he could. It knocked the Silence off his Speedor, and Pig Guy was able to zoom by him. He had won!


Note: I know Pig Guy cheated to win the race, but that is literally what Mario Kart is like!


If you read this whole post, thanks so much for reading! My boys had fun creating these for us. I’m sure your kids will too!